As the stigmas historically associated with mental illness slowly break down, more focus is placed on understanding how exactly these conditions affect so many of us. There is lots of good information available about what exactly happens to brain chemistry, what lifestyle and even dietary changes might help someone in their struggle with mental illness. One strategy that has been shown to help many people dealing with various mental illnesses is CranioSacral Therapy, and I’d like to explain how exactly this works. CranioSacral Therapy is gentle, mechanical manipulation of the individual bones that make up the skull, as well as the sacrum (i.e. your tailbone). This is an important piece: What if there is something STRUCTURALLY contributing to a mental illness?
One of the biggest challenges facing the massage therapy profession is finding acceptance from the larger medical community as an effective, even necessary, therapeutic intervention. As a Registered Massage Therapist, and as anyone who receives regular massage therapy can confirm, we know that massage therapy can manage symptoms associated with all kinds of conditions. However, we have a hard time explaining exactly how it works and why it consistently provides relief,
A gift for integrative health services is a thoughtful way to support a friend or family member in their efforts toward health and happiness. KIHC gift certificate recipients may apply their gift to whichever service they prefer, including massage, reiki, osteopathic treatment or acupuncture for chronic pain, or even food allergy testing. If you’d like, we’ll help guide them to healthcare options that best suit their needs.
Clients commonly ask me if I offer “deep tissue” massage. The simple answer is yes, it is a part of every massage therapist’s training. However, it is not always the most effective approach. In my experience, ‘forcing’ a muscle to release by digging a knuckle or elbow into it often provides only temporary relief. I’m most interested in understanding why the muscle is so tight in the first place, so that the root cause can be addressed for longer-lasting relief.
Can Massage Therapy help with my headaches? Yes! Although Massage Therapy may not spring to mind as a typical intervention for ongoing headaches, I have had a lot of success over the years treating clients for head pain. There are a few ways Massage Therapy can address headaches, but the most common way is by addressing trigger points in the neck and upper back. A trigger point is a specific point in a muscle that, when stimulated, can cause referred pain. These pain patterns are remarkably consistent from one person to another and there are A LOT of trigger points that refer to the head, mimicking a headache. Some trigger points can even mimic migraines or cause some autonomic phenomena to occur, such as watery eyes, runny nose, and light sensitivity. So, by addressing the tension in the neck and associated trigger points, headaches will often disappear!
There are so many different types of headaches, how can you know if Massage Therapy will help you with your specific headache? There are some good clues to watch for that may indicate that your headache pain is associated with a pesky trigger point:
Joel Ackerman, RMT
I’m sure you can probably guess the most common complaints I hear from clients: sore low backs, tight shoulders and necks, headaches, cranky knees, and so on. In addition to all of these more predictable aches, one complaint I hear more often than you might expect is jaw pain. Often it is mentioned in passing, and almost as a joke; “But I don’t suppose there’s anything you can do for that…” My clients are always surprised when my response is, “Yes, we can absolutely do some massage there!”
I have seen Massage Therapy be very effective in relieving all sorts of jaw pain, or as we call it, TMJ pain (named after the Temporomandibular Joint). In fact, there are a number of clients who have made intra-oral massage a part of their regular treatment plan, as they recognize the preventative benefits, even if they aren’t in pain! Other times, one or two treatments are all it takes to make a significant difference in how much pain someone is experiencing. In other situations, when people aren’t complaining of jaw pain, a little bit of release to the jaw makes a vast improvement in the overall tension they are feeling in their head and neck.
So how does Massage Therapy work exactly when it comes to the jaw? Treatment options for jaw pain include fascial work around the jaw joint at the ear, massage done directly to the muscles in and around the jaw. This includes some intra-oral massage. Using latex-free disposable gloves, and after establishing a clear communication system with the client, I begin by working on one muscle at a time (there are 4 on each side of the jaw). This can be a bit uncomfortable, as these muscles almost never get touched, but then the relief felt afterwards is almost instant! And because these muscles don’t get touched very much, a minute or two of massage goes a long way. Then we finish with more fascial work and massage to the muscles in the neck. The jaw and neck are very closely related, and dysfunction in one of these areas often leads to dysfunction in the other.
Rachel Young, RMT
Hot stone massage therapy uses heat therapy, both as a static application and while performing effleurage, to ease muscle tension and stiffness, and increase circulation and metabolism. Hot stone massage therapy promotes deeper muscle relaxation by placing smooth, water-heated volcanic basalt stones, which have the ability to retain heat for an extended amount of time, at key points on the body. Heat therapy applied to these areas helps to keep the parasympathetic nervous system, that is, the nervous system that promotes the release of hormones which relax the body, stimulated. During effleurage, the direct heat of the stones relaxes muscles more quickly than if the heat was not applied, which allows the massage therapist to gain access to the deeper muscle layers more efficiently. The steady heat from the hot stones expands blood vessels, which encourages blood flow throughout the body. This sedative effect can relieve chronic pain, reduce stress and promote deep relaxation. Heat therapy is especially helpful at this time of year, when the body is subjected to the cold that keeps muscles contracted, restricting circulation, causing the nervous system to be in a sympathetic state, meaning the promotion of stress-related hormones to be released, even more than what normal-life stresses and disease already cause in the body. Combining hot stone protocols with a full body massage provides a very healing experience.
Joel Ackerman, RMT
Anyone who has had, or been around someone experiencing jaw discomfort, knows that it is no laughing matter. It is a class of pain unto itself, and it makes perfect sense, since we use our mouths more or less constantly throughout our day. Talking, biting and chewing our food, yawning, and most of our facial expressions all involve significant work by our mouth and jaw muscles. Not surprisingly, some of these muscles are among the strongest muscles in our body. So what happens when these muscles get sore?
You may be surprised to hear that massage therapy is a VERY effective way to deal with sore jaw muscles. Often referred to as TMJ pain (much easier to say than ‘Temporomandibular Joint’), TMJ dysfunction is fairly common, and can arise for a variety of reasons. Your TMJ is just in front of your ear, and where your lower jaw articulates with your skull. Teeth grinding, trauma (like a blow to the jaw, especially with the mouth open), improper positioning of the teeth, postural issues, and even prolonged dental work can all cause TMJ dysfunction. Interestingly though, apart from some serious dental work (i.e. having your mouth open for an hour or more at a time!), or some stress-related teeth grinding, the most common contributing factor to TMJ pain is tight neck muscles! When our necks our tight,
Joel Ackerman, RMT
A: Nowadays someone who is dealing with depression has a growing number of treatment paths available to them. One option that research is showing to be more and more effective is Registered Massage Therapy. There is growing evidence that Massage is an effective part of a holistic approach to treating depression and other mood disorders. Massage Therapists are now educated about depression just like any other condition such as epilepsy or hypertension. Let’s examine the role that Massage Therapy can play as part of an integrated approach to dealing with depression.
The most well known benefits of Massage Therapy are stress reduction and relaxation. Stress arises from, and contributes to all illnesses. Massage Therapy helps combat stress by calming your nervous system and putting your body in a more relaxed state. In fact, Massage Therapy has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in your body by up to 40 percent after even a single massage!
~ Joel Ackerman, RMT
It is easy to associate massage therapy with relaxation, stress reduction, and ‘working out the knots’. However, one of the most underappreciated aspects of receiving a good massage is the wonderful night of sleep that so often follows a massage therapy treatment. In a society that seems to be moving towards an epidemic of sleep debt, where an estimated 50% of adults in North America are chronically underslept, it is vital that we understand the importance of sleep in our lives and find ways to improve how we sleep.
Sleep was once thought to be a passive activity, but as the science of sleep develops, we now understand how important sleep is! Sleep is actually a highly regulated process, in which the body performs several vital activities, some of which simply don’t occur at any other time.